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23 recruits killed, 36 wounded in Baghdad

Baghdad: A suicide bomber killed 23 Iraqi army recruits and wounded 36 in Baghdad on Thursday, according to sources in an attack on men volunteering to join the government's struggle to crush al Qaeda-linked militants in Anbar province.

Brigadier General Saad Maan, spokesman for the Baghdad Security Operations Centre, said the bomber blew him up among the recruits at the small Muthanna airfield, used by the army in the capital.

Maan put the death toll at 22 but health ministry officials said morgue records showed 23 had died.

No group immediately claimed responsibility for the attack, which occurred a day after Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki said he would eradicate the “evil” of al Qaeda and its allies.

Fighters from the al Qaeda-affiliated Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL), which is also at the forefront of Syria's civil war, last week seized control of Falluja and parts of Ramadi, capital of Iraq's western Anbar province.

The Shi'ite-led government has asked for volunteers to join the military effort against al Qaeda, which has regained strength in Sunni-dominated areas such as Anbar partly by exploiting widespread Sunni resentment over Maliki's policies.

Also on Thursday, a suicide car bomber attacked a check point in eastern Ramadi, killing three Special Forces soldiers and wounding four, police and medical sources said.

A sniper killed two more members of the Special Forces in Buhriz, north of Baghdad, according to security officials.

And a car bomb exploded near a health department building in Tikrit, the hometown of deposed Sunni leader Saddam Hussein. An ambulance driver was killed and five other people wounded.

The violence has alarmed Western governments and pointed up the links between Sunni militants in Iraq and Syria, but Iraq's oil industry and its foreign investors see no cause for panic, given that main oil fields are far from Anbar.

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